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Hexagon Metrology has made headlines and embarked on one of the most aggressive acquisition strategies the quality industry has seen in a long time. There is no sign that Hexagon Metrology is finished with its acquisitions of leading edge, competitive technology.
At IMTS 2004, Quality magazine had the opportunity to meet with Hexagon CEO and Hexagon Metrology President Ola Rollén in a one-on-one, exclusive interview. Rollén took time to talk about the plans for integrating the acquired its companies, how he views the metrology business, key challenges and needs for manufacturers, and areas for future expansion.
Quality magazine: Hexagon has been making the news quite a bit in recent months, especially with its acquisitions of Romer S.A. and Romer CimCore. What drives your acquisitions?
Ola Rollén: Since 2000, we've seen opportunities in the metrology business where someone could come in and make some money. This was easier to do as a smaller player back in 2000-2001 than it would be to do right now. The prices that people are willing to pay for measurement equipment have dropped quite a bit and it's harder to make a dollar than it used to be.
QM: So, what can Hexagon bring to the market?
OR: With the companies we have, we can bring an economy of scale. We bring world-class software (with PC-DMIS), service and R&D [research and development] on a scale moreso than when our companies stood alone.
QM: How do you deal with products that currently compete with each other?
OR: We reposition the machines that compete with each other, such as the Sheffield Discovery and the Brown and Sharpe One, so that the next generation of products is developed jointly. And we'll also reposition competitive products so that each will represent a certain strength of the product. For example, Sheffield is the shop-floor, rugged offering, Romer is the portable offering, Leitz targets the ultra-high precision required by the defense and aerospace industries, and so on.
QM: What do you see as a challenge to the measurement community overall, and how will Hexagon address that challenge?
OR: No matter what product is made, you still need metrology. However, the way in which you inspect and measure that product will change. The idea is to move measurement from after the process to before and during the process.
QM: In-process measurement? That's a significant change in the way of thinking for many manufacturers and machine builders.
OR: Yes, it is. I come from the steel industry where if the customers change, you have to change to stay in business. What holds in-process measurement back is a lack of resources. Some of the larger machine builders need to support an in-process approach. Cincinnati Lamb here [IMTS] is showing it supports an in-process approach.
QM: What other trends do you see occurring in the measurement industry?
OR: The U.S. automotive industry wants portable measurement tools they can move, in case they close a plant, change a line or make some other change. They want fast, reliable data that can tell them what is happening in process. The European car industry has different needs. They are more into the technology of the machine and are making the money to buy it. Korea looks a lot like Europe in its desires and Japan less so.
QM: Not everyone can afford some of the high-end machines available on the market. And, many companies don't have the in-house expertise to run such sophisticated equipment.
OR: You're correct. Smaller manufacturers tell us they need equipment that's "plug and play." They want something easy to use that will still get good measurements. Many start with a manual machine and keep using it even as they grow, or they may decide to outsource their measurement and inspection.
HExagon metrology familyAs of September 2004, Hexagon Metrology is made up of:
• Brown & Sharpe
• Romer (USA and France)